boiling it down II

this is a follow up to my boiling it down post of june 2006.

recently i was asked what i believe and why, and i realized that it’s evolved a lot over the last year and half, so another post on this subject is warranted.

i will try not to step on any toes in the process.

part of my personal growth over the last few months is realizing that when i discuss this stuff i can come off as very condescending, and this i very much wish not to do, since it’s not in my heart at all.

i do not believe in god

i no longer believe god exists. now, this does not mean that i can begin to explain what philosophers and physicits have struggled with for centuries regarding this universes’ origins (or lack thereof). of course i can not. but i’m perfectly willing to take a “wait and see” attitude towards the subject (even if it means we never do get to see).

having a stepson in my life has, perhaps counter-intuitively, led me to this conclusion rather firmly. as he asks questions i can’t answer, i can feel the drie to be able to provide the answers to him. when death comes up, it’d be awfully comforting to be able to reassure him that he’ll be happy and safe in heaven some day, and that god will protect us all from disaster.

of course, god does not protect us from disaster, nor from our own deaths of the deaths of those we love. so far, everyone single one of us who’s lived has died, and everyone who’s died had a mother and father, and lots of us who die have grieving children and grandchildren.

it would be nice to be able to tell my kid that there’s a good reason for all that pain.

prayer works

prayer works for those who believe in prayer.

surprised?

let me clarify: it works for thosse who believe in prayer, and that’s the extent of it. it does not work across space/time boundries on anyone else but the person doing the praying.

it now strikes me as odd that we humans tend to beleive that prayer can change the future, but not the past. if god can and deos respond to prayer, why not reach “back” and simply change the past?

and yet who among us that prays ever believes this is what god does?

the reason, of course, is that there is zero evidence that prayer does effect he past. it’s soooo much easier for our brains to pray for that which has not yet happened and believe that our prayers were answered.

i’m also, now, struck by the christian notion that god answers prayers in there ways, “yes”, “no”, and “wait”. how conveneintly easy to believe.

crap, there i sounded condescending again. sorry. i am frustrated with my own previous belief in such things, and looking in on it from the outside, i can scarcely see at all how i didn’t see through such mental tricks. it seems blindingly obvious now that god doesn’t answer with “wait” or “no” or “yes”, that these are the natural outcome of everything that is in question.

when one prays “dear god, please bring my dog back to life”, the answer is, always, “no”.

when one prays “dear god, please don’t allow my dog to die, even though he was hit by a car”… well either the dog’s going to die from her wounds, or not. and if she does not, it’s easy for the person who believes in god and in prayer to believe that his prayers had something to do with it.

i know i sure did.

but prayer is comforting, and centering. in fact, it’s a lot like meditaion in this. (imagine that)

when i long to be comforting to my son with big questions, i would also love to have such comfort myself, and yet none is forth coming.

those who believe in prayer do have such comfort, though, and it is something i am vaguely jealous of. but i can’t un-see what i’ve seen, and what i’ve seen has convinced me that the beneifts of prayer do not extend beyond the person doing the praying, and i also can achieve the same benefits through meditation and other centering techniques.

how i ought to behave

i no longer look to some power outside the universe to guide my thinking or morality.

it makes “right” and “wrong” an interesting mental exercise, but it doesn’t change life on the ground on earth much: i pretty much live like i’ve always lived. i love my family, i care for those around me, i don’t kick my dogs.

i don’t steal, and i teach my child that stealing is wrong.

i belive that generosity is better than selfishness and i believe compassion is better than noncaring.

it’s just that simple.

what i do believe

i am, if one must put a label on what i believe, a taoist.

i have posted taoist things before, and will likely do so again, but it’s not a faith so much as a set of principles that lead to a better, happier life.

so, what changed my mind?

what was it that made me question my faith in the first place? what was it that enabled me to honestly face my questions? what was it that allowed me to chase my questions down and accept what i saw as the truth?

that’s something that will have to wait for another post, but i’ll give you a hint: when you come to believe that god’s not going to burn you in hell, you start feelign a bit more free to ask him to back his promises up.

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